Enough of the spin



Dear lovely people, hello!

As you know, if you've hung around here much, I'm naturally very optimistic. Also pretty positive. Which is why, I guess, when things are a tad grim, I go off the air. I'd prefer not to say anything rather than (a) lie and pretend everything is excellent or (b) confess everything's not excellent. It's not really our style. We spin the 'excellent' story almost by habit.

But it's been a bit of a tough month. 

It started with the chickens, I think. One day we had seventy fully grown (expensive to raise) free range chickens out in the paddock ready to go to the abattoir, and the next day the abattoir was closed down. And it's the only poultry abattoir anywhere around here. 

I spent a full day on the phone (while in the kitchen making biscuits for market) trying to find an alternative. I called the Department of Primary Industries and begged for help. I called every poultry processing place this side of Brisbane. No one wanted to stop their "lines" for a small number of hippy-raised free range poultry. The numbers were too small. The birds were too big. (That's what happens when they eat grass and run around and you don't kill them at six weeks old like the commerical producers, they grow big and healthy. Der.)

We faced the reality that out meat bird business was probably kaput, and we quickly cancelled our standing order for day old chickens with the hatchery, but we had seventy birds that needed processing yesterday, another seventy that were six weeks old and in the paddock and another seventy in the big brooder box under lights, one week old. How could we possibly process all those birds by hand?

So we called the old abattoir again, a little place we've really liked dealing with, all hand processing done by two very competent Greek ladies in aprons, and we asked if we could buy their equipment. 

We knew we wouldn't be able to legally sell our birds if they were processed here on the farm, so we tentatively set up some black market chicken contracts where customers agreed to buy our birds processed outside the system. We spent $800 on the equipment and more retreiving it, and Adam set it all up.

Meanwhile we were notified that the bulka bags of feed we'd been trying to get delivered for about three months were finally delivered into the Sydney warehouse. We haven't been able to justify buying a silo, but buying feed in 20kg bags is more expensive and very inefficient when you go through it at our rate. We went through a palava to find a commerical feed available by the ton and to sort out how to get it delivered into a shed on the farm, and right when the bottom had fallen out of the bird business, we get an unexpected delivery of thousands of dollars worth of feed. 

Did I mention the kids weren't all sleeping through the night and we were both chronically overtired at this point? And I had an awful cough that wouldn't go away? 

Anyway, Adam gets the equipment fired up and starts processing birds. He does a singularly awesome job, the birds look terrific and he's quick and the plucker in particular works like a dream. 

He does about sixteen of the first batch and I'm transferring them from the icebath into clean bags when I get a call from our hatchery telling me they've found a place that will process our birds. I stutter that that is impossible, I've called everyone, no one in a three-hour radius will do it (that's the limit we'll transport birds, they don't want to be in crates on the back of a truck for any longer than that.) They give me a phone number of a friend of a friend and ka-bam, we've got a family-run abattoir outside of Sydney that can take our birds. 

I run over to the dairy and tell Adam to stop processing, so we can process and sell the birds legally, we'll freeze those sixteen for our own use. 

Adam takes the birds up a couple of days later, we sell them all to a local restaurant and breathe a sigh of relief. Well I don't really sigh, because there's something a bit wrong with my chest and Adam finally marches me to the doctor. Turns out it was suspected whooping cough, and I'm already at the end of it and no longer infectious. I feel pretty crook. They give me some kind of steroids which don't really help and anyway, I've got another market to bake for. 

Then one of our pigs goes lame. Not just lame, but paralysed from the waist down. Neither of us have ever seen or heard anything like it, so we take a deep breath and call the vet. He says she has maybe 50% chance of recovery. He gives her an injection, and not very optimistically gives Adam six more syringes to inject over the next three days. We're worried about our pig. For the vegetarians out there this might seem hypocritical but we take the care and wellbeing of our animals very seriously. 

And meanwhile our car has blown up. The (uninsured) one which went through the flooded causeway last year, now insured, but not against a timing belt failure. I love the idea of running just one car but our lives being as they are, it's impractical. We live on a farm, I can't walk to the commerical kitchen, Adam needs a four wheel drive to move the chicken caravan. I make an appointment to talk to the bank about a car loan. 

While discussing car loans with the bank, I talk about our business plans, and commerical kitchen building plans, and exciting workshop running plans. The bank is enthusiastic and loves the plan, but suggests I really look at the profitable parts of the business in terms of loan repayments. The bikkies are not one of them. They're breaking even, but are not stong enough to get us a significant business loan. And I guess they're not central to what we're all about: growing and raising incredibly nutritious food and sharing it and talking about it. 

I'm on steroids that don't seem to be working and I'm chronically overtired and there's a ton of pig food on it's way on seven day terms and crows are killing the younger free range meat birds and there's commerical kitchen rent owing and everywhere I go people want to know where the biscuits are. 

I need a job. I called my friend Kirsten who was about to open a new business locally and asked if she needed any help. She wondered how it might work with the biscuit business and I said, biscuits schmiscuits. Or something. 

And so I started work with Kirst and it's so. much. fun. 

She's opening a place called The Schoolhouse, it's a cheese making place that also sells her locally grown tea. I'm working four days a week, baking mainly, morning teas, scones, crackers and oatcakes to go with the cheese. It's a gorgeous place, a beautiful fit-out, and I've always admired Kirst. And how lovely to get a paycheck.

Meanwhile Ad can concentrate on chickens and eggs and bees and vegies and we've got a bit of breathing space to plan a series of workshops that don't require an expensive commerical kitchen just at present. 

And after two days of injections, our pig got up and walked. And now she's bounding around with her sisters. 

The photo at the top is from 18 months ago, Tilly at a neighbour's farm with a neighbour's pig, before we had our own pigs, before we'd started the egg business, before we'd grown or sold our first meat bird, before we'd ever had a market stall, before we'd put up a fence or planted a carrot.

Only 18 months ago.

And besides that, I have no idea where my camera is.

First order of the day today, find my camera, and go take a photo of Adam's solution to the crows and our safe and sound little meat birds.


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